Sunday, September 1, 2019

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 46 to 51

July 21st to August 31st. Woof. Work has been tumultuous. First the bad, get the elephant out of the room. After our CTO was fired, about a month later two of the "original six" had a rather public fight. Trust was broken with both of them amongst us little people. The week after, one of them quit. Related, but not exactly related, a third person of the "original six" quit citing wanting to diversify financially, which makes sense after spending nearly four years at a little startup. Point being, we lost a lot of history and experience in the space of a little over a month, and are down to three of the original six people at the company. In particular, we lost experience on the design and virtual side of the business. Our production team is doing just fine, and our test team is rapidly growing into it's own responsibilities, but our design side has struggled. On top of all that we reorganized, which I am very optimistic about. I again have a first time manager for the fourth time in my career, who is going to go far, he's pretty awesome, he's also younger and every time I have a younger manager I ask myself, "What did I do wrong that my career has not reached that level?" Anyway, both him and our now most experienced design engineer both had babies on Wednesday and are out on paternity leave, so suddenly the design team is looking very small and inexperienced. Not to mention that we have made a relatively large number of changes (about 15% of the product) in the last month and have to ship our product to our first customer in two weeks.

Trying to get everyone on the same page, and get all of the work done, is difficult. It's interesting, because we have high standards, both individually and as a company, there are things that honestly, we don't have to do to meet our customer obligations, however, doing them is clearly the right thing, and that's what's causing me stress. Essentially, as configuration engineer, I want to deliver a packet that more or less says, 'this is what you bought'. Even if we just keep it internally, it's important, if anything goes wrong, that we know exactly what we shipped. The design matches the assembly and the testing.

On the scale of turmoil that is possible, we're actually not doing bad at all. It's interesting to see the new people, I think we are up to 52 people total, come in and have no idea both of what we have done, and what we haven't done. It's easy to think from the limited public information out there that we are more advanced than we are. I struggle because despite making huge progress in the past year, and especially this past week, I know we have a long way to go to even justify our current valuation, let alone any future dreams of big success (profitability).

There is a part of me that thinks I should just go work for one of the big beaurcratic companies where I just navigate the system to get things done and they move super slow, but have lots of stability and a lower emotional investment because of my lower status in the company relative to it's overall trajectory. That being said, everyone knows startups go through tough times. I feel a bit like Jony Ive at Apple in the 1990s. Meaning, I think this is the place to be, but at the moment with all of the chaos, I don't know. Our success as a company with our products is not guaranteed at all. At my old company, you knew your market, you knew the volumes through good times and bad times, you knew the problems, and you knew how to deliver a new product successfully. We're just not there yet. We're not ready to ship the Mac or the Apple II or the iMac, those cool things that ultimately were precursors to really big changes like the iPod and then the iPhone.

There's an old saying among professional runners, I think one of the British guys from the 1960s or 1980s, that if you don't question pursuing this goal, you didn't aim high enough. There are lots of bad days as an athlete. There are lots of mundane average days too. Then occasionally there are those days where you just float and PR by 19 seconds in the 5k. The second part of the professional runner quote is that ultimately, you can question pursuing the goal, but the decision to pursue the goal has already been made. You're going to go run 18 miles in the 50F degree rain, because to get where you are going every workout matters, even when they aren't so fun.

I think this stress is just a short term thing really, and I plan to take a full week of vacation in September after this little push the next two weeks. We have unlimited vacation but I've only taken six days this year, that's just less than one day per month, and we don't have a lot of paid holidays, unlike my last company.

Running and climbing are more or less going well. I twisted my ankle last Saturday coming down Crestone Peak. However I still did it, including class 3 parts, for 20.2 miles, 7600 feet of elevation gain and loss, in 9:07 which is pretty good. I even "raced" a pick up truck down the last 2.5 miles of the four wheel drive road, and won, by like two minutes. However it's taken most of the week for my ankle to recover. I've now done 34 Colorado 14ers and have 19 remaining. I also did Dallas and Teakettle two technical 13,000 foot mountains part of the 100 highest in the state. I've done the third flatiron twice in the last weeks weeks after work, it's a delight! I've even plain run 8 miles over trails from 5800 up to 6800 feet in the my longest continuous run in the recovery. It's been five months now and I'm happy with what I can do, but frustrated that my ankle recovery isn't fast. I just want to cry sometimes.

In other news, I am renewing my lease to stay in Longmont another year. At church I've befriended a somewhat recent widow in her 80s and most weeks she will have me over for dinner. Totally strange I think, but I like it and frankly, there is a loneliness epidemic in my generation and little things like this help mitigate it. Dating is going. I'll just leave it there.

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